When John Sanders joined the staff of the Edmonds Community College Music Department in 2003, he came on as a full-time music theory instructor. And while he loved the subject and the inquiring minds in his classroom, as an accomplished jazz pianist Sanders was a true musician at heart.
“When I started here I saw that there wasn’t any formal instrumental music training happening in the department,” he recalled. “It’s always been a very strong choral program. Soundsation is the very elite vocal jazz ensemble here, and they are very well known in the Northwest, but there were only vocals, no instrumentals.”
Sanders (who is now the music department chairman) wanted that to change, but realized he would have to start small. He said the smallest group he could think of was a jazz combo, which can have as few as three or four instruments. The experiment had its ups and downs, and Sanders said it was hard to recruit serious horn players because at the time the college did not offer an associate's degree in music.
It was time to kick it up a notch.
“For the next step, I decided to start a community jazz band, a full band,” he said. “It brought a lot of people out from the community and a few students as well. The buzz started to build that there was a jazz band at the college.”
Sanders switched practices from just Sunday nights to three days a week and, even though he initially lost a few members, this will be the fifth year the band has been up and running. It has been so successful that Sanders was able to pass the baton, both literally and figuratively.
David Marriott, a director and trombone player, will take over direction of the jazz band this year. But just because Sanders is passing on the band doesn’t mean he’s got an empty plate. The instrument ensemble (concert band) starting this year has been simmering in the back of his mind for a few years.
“One thing required of music players when they transfer to a four-year school is that they have had participation in a large ensemble, a concert ensemble,” Sanders said. “I had one very blunt high school band director who said, ‘I’m not sending you any students because you don’t have a concert ensemble.’ ”
So after much preparation and years of planning, Sanders is excited to finally announce the addition of a concert band at Edmonds Community College. Not only does it give students valuable instruction and practice, but it fulfills the instrumental gap that was missing for students wanting to pursue an associate's in music. Like the first community band Sanders developed, this concert band is a mix of students and community members.
The band will be led by Bill Park, another trombone player and director who has directed at SPU and at the King’s Schools in Shoreline.
“[Bill]’s got the personality and reputation and history in the community to form what we need in this particular ensemble because it bridges musicians in the community and the college,” Sanders said.
Among the members of the concert band, there are students from local high schools who are enrolled in the Running Start program, serious college students seeking a degree in music and community members in their mid-60s who just have a passion for music.
“One of the cool things about making music and being a musician is it’s something you can do wherever you are in life,” Sanders said. “This band is a hub; it’s a meeting place for very diverse people who are all interested in a common endeavor. Music creates moments, it creates times to sit down and celebrate that it’s good to be alive.”
Now that’s something to toot your horn about.
The ensemble’s first concert will be Nov. 28, but the venue is still pending. Check back for more details.